Basic Yeast Donuts (with Many Variations)

April 13, 2023
22 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Makes 2 dozen large or 4 dozen mini
Author Notes

This recipe is a version of one passed down from my great-great grandma. Thanks to an old beaten-up recipe card, these donuts are a family legacy. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Basic Yeast Donuts (with Many Variations)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk (345 g)
  • 1/3 cup water (70 g)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (56 g)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (600 g)
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt (4 g)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (50 g)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (9 g)
  • 2 eggs (113 g)
  • Neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola oil), for frying
  1. In a small pot, heat the milk, water, and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture is warm (around 115°F/45°C). Remove the pot from heat.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, sugar, and yeast to combine. Add the warm milk mixture and the eggs and mix on low speed to combine, 3 minutes. Raise speed to medium, and mix using a dough hook, mix until the dough begins to pull away from the edges, 3 minutes more. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Transfer the finished dough to a lightly greased large bowl (you'll need enough room for the dough to rise). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If you're ready to make the doughnuts the same day, let it to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can let it rise for 30 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate the dough overnight so that it’s ready to make in the morning.)
  4. To shape the doughnuts, roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2-inch/1 cm thick. Use a doughnut cutter to cut doughnuts (alternatively you can use two circle cutters, or even the rim of a drinking glass and the rim of a shot glass, to shape the doughnuts). I also like to cut the doughnuts into squares (about 2 inches by 2 inches) using a pizza cutter -- this is especially great for filled doughnuts.
  5. Heat the oil to about 360° F. (You can use a candy/fryer thermometer, but I just do a test with one of the donut holes or a scrap piece of dough: If it rises rapidly to the surface, the oil is ready. If the donuts begin to brown too quickly, the oil is too hot.)
  6. Fry the doughnuts, turning them halfway through cooking, until they're golden brown on each side. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Finish as desired. (You can glaze the donuts by dunking them, or by pouring the glaze over donuts on a rack).
  7. Some finishing options:
    -Powdered: Toss in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.
    -Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk (enough to make a runny glaze), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional).
    -Chocolate-Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, and 4 to 5 tablespoons milk or cream.
    -Chocolate-Coated: Dip doughnuts in tempered chocolate thinned with 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
    -Fruit-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup fruit purée.
    -Violet-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cream or milk, and 1 teaspoon violet extract. Garnish with candied violets.
    -Pistachio: Glaze donuts with basic glaze, then press in chopped toasted pistachios.
    -Coconut: Glaze with coconut glaze (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup coconut milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla), and press in toasted coconut flakes.
    -Black and White: Make a dark chocolate ganache with 1 cup chopped dark chocolate and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Make a white chocolate ganache with 1 cup chopped white chocolate with 1/4 cup heavy cream. Glaze half the doughnut with the chocolate glaze and half with the white glaze.
    -Caramel-Glazed: Melt 1 cup of caramel candies with 1/3 cup heavy cream in the microwave in 10-second blasts until fully melted. Thin the glaze with additional milk or cream as needed to get a pourable glaze.
    -Meyer Lemon: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon, then add enough milk to form a pourable glaze.
    -Cinnamon Roll: Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Mix together 1 stick melted butter with 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Spread the mixture evenly all over the dough, then roll tightly into a cylinder. Cut into 1 inch-thick pieces, then fry until golden brown. Glaze with basic glaze.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

56 Reviews

Shauna February 10, 2024
I received a fryer at Christmas and wanted to use it for a sweet . Your donut recipe sounded so good I couldn’t resist trying it out. Like all your recipes it comes together easily. I lobe smooth elastic dough. They came out with a nice chew I think I may have over done a few towards few end. I did wonder since I rolled out dough & cut my shapes, by the time I was frying the 2nd batch of 12 it did seem like the dough was tougher to roll out & began to rise again before I fried. For decoration I kept it simple with cardamom cinnamon ginger & caster sugar , powdered sugar I had flavored with clove and then a coconut chocolate ganache creamed/whipped . They are so delicious BUT not overly filling or too much and the spices in the dough give such a great foundation to build on! So I had a little dough left over I went and tried something different! Yes I made my last donut with garam Marsala in the dough and then did a pistachio glaze! So good I ate it before taking a photo. My next thought is savory ! Changing the spices slightly and perhaps going browned butter, bacon, maple glaze ? Something that isn’t all sweet but covers breakfast/brunch… or even going full savory and doing a rosemary spiced dough and a balsamic reduction glaze ? Serve with grilled chicken and sauteed colored greens and sauteed veggies or grilled veggies????
Norfolker May 25, 2023
These are an incredible donut! Made the first batch straight off and then put the remaining dough in the fridge and didn't get to make the rest for 48 hours! They were all delicious and my son ate 6 at once! Some I did in cinnamon sugar and some in vanilla glaze. We'll definitely be making these again and again and again and...
Brit.e90 December 24, 2022
I made donuts for the morning of Christmas eve but I had strong hot Totti and forgot the eggs. It still worked out amazing and tasted delicious. Looking forward to how much better it will be with the eggs.
Miarose December 10, 2022
This recipe is simply one of the best ive ever made, super light and fluffy donuts. Perfectly crisp on the outside. Thankyou so much for sharing this family recipe with us. 🤗💛🙏🙏
Bird091178 November 18, 2022
it s not fluffy at all and the icing doesn't coat well... it s quite heavy... im not sure where I did wrong... im following the recipe... or do I need to knead till mirror effect?
MrsRhodes May 27, 2021
When I find something new I want to learn, I make it over and over until I get it right. After several weeks of Saturday morning donuts, this recipe turned out to be the best. I just love them. I cut them into rectangles with a pizza cutter, because I am lazy, but they are just as good, if not better than a traditional cut. I do half with vanilla and half with chocolate glaze. I think they have to be eaten within 24 hours...that is not easy for just my husband and me. I will see how a half recipe turns out this weekend.
chinagem July 20, 2021
Did you ever try half the recipe?
MrsRhodes July 20, 2021
I did! It worked out great.
Marsha A. April 3, 2021
I made these with my 6 year old twin girls. Loved it! Had a few questions though:
*Why didn't the dough didn't come out as wet as the video?
*What ingredient controls how airy it is?
*The dough had little specks of maybe yeast (we used instant)? Not sure, but it baked out. Phew!
*How long does refrigerated dough last?
We'll be making these again and really want to nail it.
Thank you!

Jocelyn M. November 17, 2022
great questions! Here's a belated response:
- weather can affect how doughs mix up to be drier or wetter than usual, but more likely how one measures their dry ingredients influences the dough the most (whisk flour, scoop into measuring cup and level or weigh for most consistent results).
- the yeast largely controls how airy it is.
- as dough is refrigerated it develops flavor as the yeast is still active at low temperatures. I tend to not let this dough go more than 48hours (experiments with pizza dough going longer could be interesting).
Sounds like yall had fun :)
irenefiszer January 25, 2021
These donuts are delicious and easy to make. I coated mine with cinnamon sugar (2 tbsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup of sugar). My only gripe with these is that they are not as great the next day. They went from an airy delight to chewy and dense by the next morning. It could be because of the humidity where I live, but I'm not sure! 9/10 if you can eat them the same day!
Alicia P. December 1, 2020
These were perfect and tasted just like MY grandma’s!
Deedle November 8, 2020
I really enjoy making this recipe. My donuts turned out very dense, not sure what I did....
Jocelyn M. November 17, 2022
I was surprised to see the recipe didn't call for the dough to rise *after* cutting out the doughnuts. I think that step would ensure an even loftier doughnut. 45 min to 1 hour in an oven with hot water in a dish to create a moist & warm environment... then to the hot oil from there.
[email protected] January 11, 2023
I was wondering the same. I am going to proof them the next time. Has anyone here tried it yet?
Tehreem K. October 11, 2020
Would this same dough work for Boston Cream doughnuts as well?
jamesdonegan June 14, 2020
We had a great time making these. We make videos of ourselves trying (and usually failing) to make different recipes we find online, so here it is if people are interested!
Dani May 14, 2020
My first time making doughnuts and this recipe did not disappoint. They came out light and airy. I made these by hand and had no problems. Substituted almond milk and plant butter for the whole milk and reg butter because its what I had onhand. Trust that this is meant to be a very sticky dough and don’t add too much flour. Instead of rolling out the dough I patted it down with my hands like I would biscuit dough. I suspect overhandling or too much flour would result in stiff or dense doughnuts. Love that I didn’t have to wait for the doughnuts to proof before frying. Will happily keep this recipe on hand.
Adeyelu T. May 4, 2020
This's really good. Love it
Kristen B. May 3, 2020
Your video says instant yeast, but the recipe says active dry? Which yeast should I use?
Kristen B. May 3, 2020
I went with instant and it worked beautifully
ellehcar May 4, 2020
I didn't notice the discrepancy! I used active dry and it worked just fine for me.
Natalie R. May 10, 2020
I noticed the discrepancy as well, But i already bought active dry. Did you have to activate the yeast before using it ? I’m a fairly new to making doughs, so i want to make sure I get it right.
ellehcar May 12, 2020
I didn't activate my (active dry) yeast beforehand but I know that it was alive since I had just used it the day prior. It's funny, while I was making the recipe I thought it was wierd that it didn't ask me to proof the yeast but I didn't think to check since this instant yeast stuff is new to me! It might not be a bad idea to proof yeast first if you are unsure.
Jessica D. April 30, 2020
Your recipe says to heat the water with the milk and butter, but your video you put the water in separately... which is it?
Judicaye April 30, 2020
When I made them, I heated them together in a saucepan. It worked just fine.
Suzanne B. April 29, 2020
unfortunately I've had to leave the dough in the refrigerator longer than 12 it worth it to still make them, or should I start over now that I have time?
Marie R. May 25, 2020
I would heat a small batch of oil and pinch off a ball to test it.
Judicaye April 25, 2020
I made these for my son-in-law's birthday and they were a hit! Easy to make and absolutely yummy, I highly recommend this recipe. I've never made doughnuts before and I couldn't believe how easy it was. We will definitely do this again, and again, and......
[email protected] April 17, 2020
S00 good made by me. I love it.
Susan L. April 13, 2020
Lol. I had fun with these doughnuts. Are they perfect?. No 😁 Are the yummy delicious? Yes! The dough was a little sticky but I made it work with a lil extra flour on the board. They fried nice. The first doughnut holes would not flip over, so I pushed the rest with my fingers so they looked a little like a pancake just before I dropped them in the oil. That worked great..they still puffed back up round. I was able to flip them over.. They are delicious. Note: it would be easier to go to a local doughnut shop chain, get perfect doughnuts. But this is a nice time to try new stuff and challenge myself. I will get better. 😁